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Voting at courthouse 2018 spring election (copy)

Ronald C. Liljedahl, right, of the city of Chippewa Falls' Second Ward prepares to vote as poll worker Betty Hedrington looks on in this April 2018 file photo.

Chippewa County officials are slated to vote Tuesday on upgrading voting technology countywide.

Those updates could be in place for the 2020 fall presidential election, county clerk Jackie Sadler said Friday.

If the county Executive Committee votes to approve $400,000 in sales tax revenue to fund the updates, Sadler expects the county to purchase new ballot readers.

The new equipment would automatically transmit voting totals to the county clerk’s office on election nights, Sadler said – eliminating the need for municipal clerks to telephone results to the county clerk.

“Depending on how many candidates are on the ballot, the clerk has to report those results to us, candidate by candidate,” Sadler said. “It’s very time consuming, and when you have that many people writing and listening, your chance of error could go up.”

Currently, municipalities use two different machines, Sadler said: One that allows people to vote using a touch screen, and a ballot reader for paper ballots. In the current system, municipal clerks have to report results from each machine separately.

Depending on the type of new equipment, those two machines could end up combined into one, Sadler said.

Chippewa County’s current voting equipment is somewhat outdated, Sadler said, and the touch screen voting machine “has not been well received by some municipalities as others.”

If approved, the new equipment would not be in place for the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

Because of this, Sadler said, her office is requesting the $400,000 for 2019.

Depending on installation and training time, the county may have the updates in place in time for the 2020 fall elections.

“Right now, elections are kind of in the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Sadler said. “I don’t want to have to buy equipment years down the road if the state decides to decertify our equipment … I’d rather be proactive and do things on our timeline, and have our clerks properly trained.”

All Chippewa County municipal clerks and some election workers will undergo election security training with the Wisconsin Election Commission this year, Sadler said.

The county’s hardware does not have her concerned with possible election tampering.

“Honestly, I am not concerned about any kind of foreign or domestic hacks into our system. With all our equipment, nothing is hooked to internet on the local side. Everything is hardwired,” she said.

On Tuesday, the Executive Committee is also slated to review a five-year Capital Improvement Plan. The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. in room 302 of the Chippewa County courthouse, 711 N. Bridge St., Chippewa Falls.

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Chippewa Herald reporter

Sarah Seifert reports for the Chippewa Herald. Contact her with tips or story ideas at 715-738-1608 or at sarah.seifert@lee.net.

(1) comment

Karen McKim

Sarah Seifert, let's think about what you've written here. Wisconsin's county clerks may not be technology experts, but I'll bet you know enough about technology in general to ask good followup questions.

Clerk Sadler told you that the results will be automatically transmitted to the county clerk on Election Night, and that the equipment is never connected to the Internet. How can both those statements be true? (Answer: The new system will communicate over the Internet.)

Clerk Sadler told you 'everything is hardwired,' yet both you and she know that the voting machines must be set up to read a different ballot (set of races, candidates) for each new election. How do the machines accomplish this if everything is hardwired? (Answer: The vote-counting software is updated for each new election.)

When the new software comes into Clerk Sadler's possession, (both when the machines are new and when it has been reprogrammed for each new election) , how will she know that the software is free from any malicious code designed to operate only on Election Day? (Answer: She won't.)

At what point, if ever, will she inspect the county election-management computer or the individual voting machines for surreptitiously installed wireless communications capacity, like that her counterparts in Pennsylvania found when they inspected their machines? (Answer: She won't.)

And most importantly: At what point will she and the county board of canvass routinely check, before they declare results final, that the vote totals were accurately calculated? (Answer: They won't. They will certify the vote totals without checking their accuracy.)

Welcome to the discussion.

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